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This website is about Brazilian jiu jitsu (BJJ). I'm a black belt who started in 2006, teaching and training at Artemis BJJ in Bristol, UK. All content ©Can Sönmez

04 April 2007

04/04/2007 - BJJ

Class #47

Roger Gracie Academy (BJJ), Maurição Gomes, London, UK - 04/04/2007

I had planned to make yesterday, but nobody was around to give me a lift, so as I’d got home earlier to bring a bike back rather than take the train straight down to London, couldn’t make training. However, that was more than made up for with Wednesday’s lesson. I’m a year closer to thirty today, and I got the rather excellent birthday present of what was almost a private lesson from Maurição. For some reason, only three of us turned up today (me, Owen and the Ben that isn’t from Bullshido) – its half term and there is apparently some football match on, but still that surprised me.

The warm-up was a little tougher as usual with Maurição, going through the dive-bomber press-ups and the like, moving on to trips and throws. First groundwork technique of the day was a pass into mount – I’m not sure what the right name or categorisation would be, as its not quite like anything I’ve done so far. There is a pass over the knee involved and switching base, but the process was fairly unfamiliar apart from that. Person A begins by placing their hands on Person B’s chest and jumping up. In order to break Person B’s guard, Person A grips one collar with the knuckles pointing towards Person B’s head, then drives those knuckles into Person B’s neck. At the same time, Person A pulls down on the other collar, aiming to choke Person B. The idea is not necessarily to submit your opponent, but to get them to open their guard, after which they will probably put their feet into your hips in order to push you away from their neck. Before they can get their feet in, Person A pushes against the inside of a leg with an elbow, driving it downwards, then securing it by putting their knee on top and pushing that knee right to the floor. Person A shifts their grip to behind Person B’s head, then brings their other leg around behind the first. The leg which was on top of Person B’s thigh now moves tight and underneath (to stop them attempting to get half guard), after which Person A grabs Person B’s far knee, then swings over into mount.

Next up Maurição demonstrated the proper technique for an armbar from mount. Having got one arm around the elbow you’re going to go for and the other arm inside, you walk your knee right up to Person B’s head. Your other knee comes up, and you place your foot tight into Person B’s side (again to prevent them trying to go for half-guard). Putting far hand on the floor, you maintain control with your other arm, then bring the knee you’ve moved up high over Person B’s head (using the hand you have on the floor for balance), then fall back for the armbar. Important point Maurição noted here was that you drive your heels in, with your feet curled back: this tenses up your calves, which Maurição said helped your grip.

Unusually, we then did specific sparring from open guard. Equally unusually, there were only three white belts in the class, meaning I sparred a blue belt, Tran. He had the rather major disadvantage of not being allowed to use his arms (which were tucked into his belt), but still managed to keep me at bay just using his legs. This was excellent training, for me at least, as I’d had such trouble when faced with Owen’s open guard a while back. Maurição was watching intently, meaning that he could offer plenty of tips. First, he advised that you should grip your opponent by the knees (not the foot, as I’d thought, because this gives your partner more options), with your arms inside and elbows tight to your hips. Secondly, Maurição recommended I to try passing around the legs, rather than going through them, which is what I’d been unsuccessfully attempting to do. I stood there for a while looking to pick my moment, then with Maurição urging me along, I threw the legs to one side and went round to side control. Of course, Tran couldn’t use his arms and was going easy on me, but still felt like I’d accomplished something.

Maurição assumed the long pause was due to a lack of confidence on my part, and said I should believe more in the technique and myself. There’s probably some truth to that, but I responded by saying that what concerned me was expending a lot of energy – I didn’t want to go for a move that looked to rely to a certain extent on strength, in case I messed up and therefore ended up wasting the little muscle I have. However, Maurição made the very sensible point that this is specific sparring: your opponent knows what you’re going to do, so they’re waiting for it. Hence you’re going to have to expend some energy. I most likely need to be more aggressive anyway, though I’m keen to develop technique. At the same time, there is no such thing as a magic technique that’s guaranteed to work every time effortlessly, so I’m going to have to get used to applying a certain amount of force. I guess the skill is in knowing when to use it.

Finally, Maurição got us to spar from side control. In the process, he gave out further handy pointers. Firstly, bunching up your knees in side control gives the other person space – much better is to sprawl out and go on your toes, as this means you can stay closer. Secondly, Maurição recommended I have both arms on the same side, one under the head and the other down by Person B’s side, ready to prevent them trying to get their leg round into side control. I was able to swing up into mount on Tran, but then the handicap on his arms was even more of a hindrance to him this time. Otherwise, I’m sure he would have been able to reverse me easily. As it was, I tried to stay in tight and went for chokes, but couldn’t get a sufficiently solid grip on his neck.

I can but hope people will fail to show up more often – impromptu semi-private lessons are awesome! Just opened some of my presents (waiting for Saturday when my mother gets back to go through most of them), and very happy to finally get my hands on a copy of Pumping Iron: started looking for the book after I first saw the documentary a few years back, so will enjoy salivating over this.

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